President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney both barnstormed Ohio this week, holding rallies just miles apart in the state's northwest. Obama's event was smack in the middle of Wood County, with Romney's just north.
The county may have a population of only 125,000, but it has an outsized importance in presidential elections.
"Since 1960, [Wood County] has predicted every election except for one," says Wood County GOP Chairman Matt Reger. "I think that it is a microcosm of Ohio, which in some parts is a microcosm of the United States."
Since 1972, every single presidential candidate who has won the popular vote has also won the Catholic vote. But with Catholics making up one in every four voters, pinning down what exactly the Catholic vote isbecomes tricky.
With the presidential debates coming up next week, we thought we'd turn once more to a man who tries to know everything, A.J. Jacobs, contributing editor at Esquire magazine and author of a number of books too numerous to mention for him to benefit from any bounce in his Amazon rankings. A.J. joins us from New York. A.J., thanks for being with us.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
The big attraction in Ohio this time of year: football. The Buckeyes, the Bobcats, the Bengals, the Browns. But every four years, the presidential campaigns roll into Ohio with their own ground games, advertizing blitzes and game plans. And for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the stakes are especially high. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. NPR's Don Gonyea has this report.
In Utah, the state's lone Democratic congressman is in a tough battle for a seventh term. Jim Matheson's opponent, Mia Love, has the support of national GOP superstars and, if elected, would become the first black Republican woman in Congress.
In a state where only about 25 percent of residents vote as Democrats, Matheson has successfully gotten enough Republicans to vote for him and keep him in office for the past 12 years. He can trace his political roots back to his father, Scott Matheson, the state's last Democratic governor.
If there is a boogey man in the Ohio presidential sweepstakes, it's China. According to Bloomberg, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have aired nearly 30,000 ads that mention trade with China, many airing in the key swing state of Ohio.
According to Bloomberg, President Obama and Mitt Romney have aired nearly 30,000 TV spots addressing the issue of trade with China, and that's just in the past month. Many of those ads aired in Ohio where both candidates are spending a lot of time. NPR's Sonari Glinton explains the Ohio-China nexus.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: If there's a boogeyman in the Ohio presidential sweepstakes, it's China.
An oddity of U.S. presidential politics is that candidates and their campaigns spend nearly all their time telling voters how superior they are to their rivals in virtually every area: the wisdom of their policy proposals; the soundness of their characters and judgments — everything, really.
Except for debating.
It's the old game of setting the bar high for your opponent and lower for your candidate, of course. That way, anything short of a disastrous debate performance can be claimed as a knockout victory.